Napoleon Chagnon and his *Noble Savages*

I started reading Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamo and the Anthropologists.  The first fifty pages are excellent fun and well-constructed, though I cannot speak to the details of his claims about the frequency of conflict or the motivation of conflict by sexual competition for women.  At some point, however, I realized I don’t want to read an entire book on either tribe, at least not at this moment.  I am not suggesting that the book gets worse, but my interest did ebb.

I do not have a view about the controversies surrounding Chagnon, and ultimately that is what should decide the merits of this work.  Here is Dreger’s systematic defense of Chagnon.  Here is a survey of the Chagnon disputes.  I wonder if he has ended up with less credibility from having the first name “Napoleon”?


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